Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 3

Q6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?

By no means; but God created man good,[1] and after His own image,[2] in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him.[3]

[1] Genesis 1:31;  [2] Genesis 1:26–27; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24;  [3] Ephesians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 6:20.


Q7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise;[1] hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.[2]

[1] Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12, 18, 19;  [2] Psalm 51:5; Genesis 5:3.

Q8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; [1] except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.[2]

[1] Genesis 6:5; Job 14:4 and 15:14, 16;  [2] John 3:5; Ephesians 2:5.


In the last question, we note that we can in no wise keep the Law of God perfectly, for we are prone, by nature, to hate God and our neighbours. The immediate and inevitable question that springs from there is: Why is this so? Why is it that we are prone to hate God and our neighbours? Did God create man wicked and perverse? If not, where did this depravity come from?

The answer to whether God created man wicked and perverse, is: Of course not. The Scripture asserts that after God had created all things, including man, He beheld all that He had made, and “behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Thus Solomon, writing under inspiration, declares: “God hath made man upright” (Ecc 7:29b). Man was created in the image of God, with knowledge, righteousness and true holiness (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

But under the temptation of Satan, Adam and Eve fell into sin when they ate of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The result of the Fall was that their nature was corrupted, and not only that, but all who are descended from them by natural generation would also inherit a corrupt nature from them, according to the declaration of the psalmist: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5; cf. Job 15:14).

This hereditary corruption, together with the imputed guilt of Adam’s first sin (not mentioned in the HC, but see WSC 18), is commonly called Original Sin. It is on account of Original Sin that all man since the Fall are by nature wholly incapable of doing any good, i.e., anything that is righteous in God’s sight. The Apostle Paul affirms this doctrine when he tells us that we not only “come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), but are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). Man is, in other words, Totally Depraved. He is depraved in every aspect of his being: body, soul, mind, heart and will.

Two implications may be derived from this doctrine: Firstly, even what may be perceived to be the most righteous deeds of the natural man, is in fact tainted with sin. The prophet Isaiah leaves no room for doubt when he says: “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6a). Secondly, as Question 8 teaches us, the only way that man can be capable again of doing any good or anything pleasing in God’s sight is when he is regenerated by the Spirit of God. This is why the Lord taught Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). That is to say, unless a man is regenerated by the Spirit of God, he cannot be saved since he would have no regards for the glory of God at all.